Antigua is a beautiful city. Mayan women sit in colourful costumes amid the ruins of buildings damaged in a 1773 earthquake. The streets have rows of squat houses painted in bright colours and many stately colonial buildings and the city is surrounded by 4 amazingly high volcanos
. It was Volcano Pacayaat 2,552 metres and still active that I decided was going to be my 50th birthday challenge. Although my birthday isn'tīt until 18th March I have always said, when asked what I was going to do for my birthday, is that I wanted to climb a mountain. And a challenge it was!! I had travellers belly for 3 days and hadn't been eating. We caught a bus there with a group of people and local guides. It is not safe to go alone as bandits haunt the lower reaches and the day before some German girls had been robbed at gunpoint of all their possessions. Most of our group were medical students and all young and fit, which was a bit daunting as we had to keep together. First there was a very steep climb to the base of the crater then the last hour was spent scrambling up the scree and volcanic throw up - 1 step forward and 2 back with each movement. What amazing sights and sounds greeted us when we made it to the top!!! Please look at the photos. There were big eruptions happening right in front of us with large rocks flying into the sky and red hot lava. It was simply breathtaking to be on top of the world with volcanic eruptions happening and the sun beginning to set. As we slid back down the mountain we were very proud of our efforts and continue to be amazed at the power of nature.
Footnote: Antigua Guatemala is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
And so we move onto Guatemala. Thursday 4th and Friday 5th March were like never ending days. We left Zipolite in Mexico about 2.00pm and 4 buses and 28 hours later we finally checked into accommodation in Antigua Guatemala! The last bus from Guatemala City to Antigua was the most amazing - a true chicken bus. The buses are old American school buses and carry at least 3 times their capacity with a conductor who hangs off the side shouting out for more people to pick up. We only had a large note to pay (money is quetzals) and after a while our change came back handed on by everyone over their heads as there was no way the conductor could reach us in the press of bodies. The change would have been several weeks wages for some but honesty prevailed.